RED

1.

Fact
must come to every man with

laboring heart, full of dread,

transfixed
by fire and things partly

guessed, a world of pain
and cruelty, a vow to slay

father and yield to passion.

2.

But M found this bond less
obvious.

M, student under St. Or,
compelled by some error

lodged in the house of his
father.

Mischance affected
him whenever it pleased

God.

3.

In the year after St. Or’s
death, he had

done little.

If he had
a hobby it was collecting

birds. Every species
he stuffed and kept,

his wool shirt stained
and ragged with blood.

4.

He began
to visit Government House,

with the governor
giving names

to the glens, the chasm,
the isle, and the great sea.

Nature
may be trifled with, but not

the governor’s smile.

5.

They trooped over the lands,
free

to marry.

Old Adam
could not gainsay them, so

all that remained
to him was the grudge.

What was the good of money
if he might not lay gamecocks?

6.

A bad season had come.

The herring
suffered, and the meal bag

across the shoulders of
Government House had less

than half a boat. But
what the governor had he gave

to the poor and the idle
alike.

7.

If he threw away his
substance

with eyes open, he felt
his whole body silently

measure its weight.

It was winter,
and a goose was hung

in the outhouse to drain
before being plucked.

8.

The goose, its disappearance
placidly smoking

and innocent,

said, “You have to be content
with mountains.”

The governor had loosened
the ties

which held
the island to the diocese.

9.

Bishop Sen reached him
to stay

execution. “The island,”
he wrote, “is my business.”

The governor
answered, “I have the right

to fling down a brace of
pheasants

without speaking to anyone.”

10.

It seemed to fill the whole
world with a new light.

Evil
Adam said, “Try the milk,”

and Bishop Sen pushed his
hot face into him.

At that insult, the governor

clapped his pistol.

11.

“Och,” he said, and

seeing how near the knife
had come

to the heart, only laughed.
He would take the hand

and stitch it down. “Aren’t
you proud of yourself?”

He was not angry.

12.

A fool doesn’t know which
side his bread is buttered.

The patronage
of the bishop was the one

tangible
item of interest for Adam.

To the governor, it was
to dispose

of the vain jack.

13.

A black thundercloud

sat in the room. M walked
into the paved yard and

heard the laughter of
the auctioneer. The house felt

empty as a pile of silver,
he reckoned.

His way of showing sympathy.

 

Continue to Book II, Chapter II

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